CITES forbids commercial trade in rare dolphin
"Most legitimate zoos and aquariums already refuse to display Irrawaddy dolphins because of their endangered status," said Karen Steuer, a senior policy adviser to conservation group WWF International.
"But there remains an active trade in them for dolphin shows and water parks across Asia."
The proposal to ban commercial trade was put forward by Thailand, host of a conference on the Convention on Trade in International Species (CITES), which regulates global trade in wild plants and animals.
The CITES decision places the Irrawaddy dolphin on its Appendix I listing, which also includes highly endangered tigers and great apes and permits commercial trade only in exceptional circumstances.
The decision still needs to be approved by next week's plenary session, but that is almost a formality.
The Irrawaddy's numbers are not known exactly, but the WWF said there were probably fewer than 1,000. The small Asian dolphin can live in both fresh and salt water, inhabiting shallows near shore as well as rivers.
Drowning in fishing nets is the biggest threat to the species, but that is compounded by the aquarium trade. WWF said at least 50 individuals have been caught for displaying them publicly since 1974.